When did horse racing begin?
Using horses for racing seems to be one of the oldest sports enjoyed by man. Races between horses were run in very ancient times. They were held in Egypt, Babylonia, and Syria. Homer described a Greek chariot race that took place about eight centuries before the birth of Christ.
But modern horse racing as we know it originated in England, and it had to do with the development in England of the thoroughbred horse. There were horse races in England as early as the 12th century, but it was in the late 17th and early 18th centuries that the breeding of horses for sport really began.
Eastern horses were brought to England from Arabia, Turkey, and Persia. Stallions from these countries were bred to English mares. Three of these stallions were very important. They were called the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerly Turk. The lineage of every modern registered thoroughbred traces back to all three in the male line!
During the 18th century, horse racing became an important English sport. The Jockey Club was established in 1751. And in 1793 the first issue of the "General Stud Book," which lists the lineage of thoroughbreds, was issued.
Horse racing has long been known as the "sport of kings." This is because English royalty has owned and raced champion horses and because royalty and wealthy people in other countries have been involved with the sport.